To tweet or not to tweet — for New York City real estate professionals, that is the question.
When using social media for business, some worry about exposing their personal lives, or putting their foot in their (digital) mouths.
But a select group of agents and executives have overcome this dilemma and emerged as the industry’s top tweeters, racking up thousands of followers at a time when the average New York City real estate broker has only around 100.
Halstead Property agent Renée Fishman (who won REBNY’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2009), for example, first logged on to Twitter in March 2009 and now has 1,349 followers. She also helps Halstead’s director of web marketing, Matthew Leone, instruct fellow agents on how to market themselves through social media.
“At first, I debated what my strategy should be,” says Fishman (@reneefishman), who recalled wondering: “Should I only tweet about real estate?”
What Fishman quickly realized, however, is the same thing that her peers in the 1,000-plus followers club know well: On Twitter, it’s best to be yourself.
Last month, for example, Fishman tweeted about the finale of HBO’s Entourage: “Damn you #Entourage for getting me teary eyed with your series finale focused on true love & happy endings.”
Jason Haber (@jasonhaber), CEO of Rubicon Property, has just over 1,800 followers. He keeps two computers on his desk, one of which he uses entirely to monitor and update his Twitter presence.
While Haber’s personal Twitter feed is inextricably linked to his work at Rubicon, it’s also a place where he goes to engage in conversations about subjects ranging from the death penalty to fantasy football.
“You have to be authentic,” says Haber. “Otherwise, no one cares.”
Curbed creator Lockhart Steele — another well-known Twitter presence in the world of New York real estate — knows this well.
“I spend a lot of time on Twitter,” says Steele (@Lock), who has nearly 9,000 followers. “But I’m doing it for myself. I just moved to the South Street Seaport area and I love tweeting about new restaurants and architecture.”
Über-appraiser Jonathan Miller is a big fan of Steele’s online persona, which he calls “quirky.” Steele, in turn, says Miller is “hilarious” on Twitter.
“I got my Twitter philosophy from Lockhart,” says Miller (@jonathanmiller), who has 4,625 followers. “It’s a mix of serious stuff and one-liners.”
So far, at least, industry success does not necessarily correspond with number of Twitter followers. For example, top agent and reality TV star Michele Kleier (@TheKleiers) has about 1,630 followers, and Prudential Douglas Elliman CEO Dottie Herman has about 1,570. But some top agents, like the Corcoran Group’s Carrie Chiang, Elliman’s Dolly Lenz and Brown Harris Stevens’ Shlomi Reuveni, don’t have Twitter accounts at all.
“I rely on old-fashioned sales techniques, and that doesn’t necessarily involve having a Twitter account,” says Reuveni.
The same applies to real estate brokerages. Firms’ Twitter followings vary widely, and don’t seem to correspond with the company’s size. For example, at press time Corcoran (@corcoran_group) had just about 7,150 followers and Halstead (@Halstead) had 4,796, but Elliman (@PDE_realestate), the city’s largest brokerage, had only 1,018. Meanwhile, Nest Seekers, a much smaller firm, had nearly 5,000 followers, while Citi Habitats, the city’s biggest rental firm, had only 502. Up-and-comers Rutenberg Realty had just 185, and Bond New York seemed to be just getting started, with only 50 followers.
Like Fishman, Paul Zweben, senior vice president at Elliman, initially found Twitter somewhat baffling.
“I didn’t get it,” admits Zweben with a laugh. “Then I realized it’s all about your personality — it’s like a living diary.”
Zweben (@hungrydomaine) currently has 2,337 Twitter followers, who come to him, again, not necessarily for real estate information, but because he routinely posts about his other love: food.
“I got a message from a venture capitalist who follows me on Twitter, saying, ‘If you know as much about real estate as you do about food, you should be my agent,'” says Zweben. A few months later, they closed a deal on an apartment on the Upper West Side.
According to Dawn Doherty, a StreetEasy alum who is now Elliman’s chief digital officer, Zweben has the right idea by engaging people before they need to buy, sell or rent a home.
Social media interaction is about building relationships and trust, explains Doherty, who has just over 1,900 Twitter followers (@CityDawn) and is prepping a course at REBNY to help agents boost their social media presence.
Doherty sites Fishman, Zweben and Miller, as well as Warburg’s Nicole Beauchamp (@nikkibeauchamp) and Stephanie Davis (@stephldavis) of the Heddings Property Group as among the top influential Twitter users in the city’s real estate world. Beauchamp has close to 2,500 followers, and Davis nearly 2,900.
Taking social media seriously
While social media-savvy real estate professionals insist that Twitter should be fun and personality-driven, they were quick to point out that there are some rules to live by.
“I never tweet in anger, and I never drunk tweet — that’s where people get into trouble,” says Fishman.
And just because Fishman and her peers don’t tweet exclusively about real estate, it doesn’t mean they don’t use Twitter to advertise listings and open houses.
But regardless of what agents post about, quality trumps quantity on Twitter.
“Some people are half-assed about Twitter,” Doherty says. “They’ll have an intern tweet, but they aren’t engaging.”
And engaging others in your ideas and personality is the future, in real estate and beyond.
“Whether you work for a big or small company, we all need to brand ourselves individually or we aren’t going to be in business in a couple years,” says Doherty. “Twitter is perfect for that.”